American actor Tab Hunter, best known for his roles in Battle Cry and Damn Yankees, passed away on July 8, 2018 at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, California. Allan Glaser, his partner of 35 years, confirmed his passing, citing complications from deep vein thrombosis that led to cardiac arrest as the cause of death. He was 86 years old.
Born Arthur Andrew Kelm on July 11, 1931 in New York City, it was agent Henry Willson who later named the actor “Tab Hunter.” After lying about his age, Hunter joined the U.S. Coast Guard and earned the nickname “Hollywood” for his penchant for watching movies while on liberty. After being discharged, Hunter met actor Dick Clayton socially who suggested that he become an actor. He made his film debut with a minor role in The Lawless in 1950, before going on to star in Island of Desire, Gun Belt, The Steel Lady, and Return to Treasure Island.
He was later offered a contract at Warner Bros., where his golden blond Californian surfer boy looks made him an instant Hollywood heartthrob. Following roles in The Sea Chase and Track of the Cat, his role as the young Marine Danny in 1955’s Battle Cry cemented his status as one of Hollywood’s top young romantic leads. He went on to star alongside Hollywood starlet Natalie Wood in The Burning Hills and The Girl He Left Behind. Around this time, Hunter also ventured into the music industry releasing hit songs such as “Young Love” and “Ninety-Nine Ways.”
Additional film credits for Hunter at his time included Lafayette Escadrille, Gunman’s Walk, the 1958 musical film Damn Yankees, They Came to Cordura alongside Gary Cooper and Rita Hayworth, as well as That Kind of Woman opposite Sophia Loren. At the height of his popularity Hunter had his own television show The Tab Hunter Show, which despite lasting only one season was ranked as one of the top situation comedies of the year in the UK.
During his latter career, Hunter starred in The Pleasure of His Company, The Golden Arrow, Operation Bikini, Ride the Wild Surf, Troubled Waters, War Gods Of The Deep, The Loved One, Birds Do It, The Fickle Finger of Fate, Sweet Kill, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood, Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold, Polyester, Lust in the Dust, Grease 2, along with spaghetti westerns Vengeance Is My Forgiveness, The Last Chance and Bridge over the Elbe. He also wrote the story for, and starred in, Dark Horse, his last film.
Hunter has a star for his contributions to the music industry on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as well as a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars dedicated to him.